Claridge convinced it's going to be Norwich and Leeds

PUBLISHED: 10:17 03 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:58 10 September 2010

Chris Lakey

Football pundit Steve Claridge has backed Norwich and Leeds to win automatic promotion this season. The veteran striker admits he didn't forecast the incredible run that the Canaries embarked on back in mid-October, which has seen them go 16 games unbeaten in the league.

Football pundit Steve Claridge has backed Norwich and Leeds to win automatic promotion this season.

The veteran striker admits he didn't forecast the incredible run that the Canaries embarked on back in mid-October, which has seen them go 16 games unbeaten in the league.

"Over the course of the season you have call it as you see it and I did not see a run like this coming from Norwich - I'm not sure anyone did," said Claridge. "But if I said that about Leeds - and, by the way, they aren't certainties to win that division any more - I also said that Norwich had got a good manager when Paul Lambert took charge."

Claridge, writing on the BBC website, says City's decision to axe Bryan Gunn after just one league game of the season is proving to a good one.

"Lambert is benefitting from the fact that Norwich got rid of Bryan Gunn so early in the season," he said. "They made the decision with this in mind - to give the new man as much time as possible to turn things around and he has done very well. I've watched them a couple of times and I've been impressed. In Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan, they have got three players who are just scoring goals for fun.

They also have a fantastic loyal support, an excellent manager and a good team - so it has all come together for them.

"I would still go for Leeds to win the title, but I wouldn't put my last £5 on them. I think the mark of the progress Norwich have made is that, six weeks ago, you would have put your mortgage on Leeds finishing top."

Leeds managed to get back to winning ways in the league at the weekend after three matches that yielded just one point, but Claridge doesn't believe their FA Cup exploits, which see them play Spurs in a fourth-round replay tonight, have been to blame for the barren run.

"I'm not sure I go along with the theory that Leeds have been distracted too much by their success in the FA Cup either," he said. "Okay, they drew at Tottenham and got thumped at Swindon, but your form doesn't go up and down like that just because of a cup run. I think the Jermaine Beckford situation played its part too before he said he was staying for the rest of the season. Everybody is due a little blip and they got back on track on Saturday by beating a very good Colchester side, although I'm slightly surprised they haven't been more active in the transfer market with all the money they have raised from their Cup runs."

The conclusion is that it's Leeds and City for promotion, with Charlton missing out on a top-two place.

"I do think those two will get the automatic promotion spots," he said. "I've never been totally convinced by Charlton - I've only seen them against Oldham, Northwich and Leyton Orient - but they've been awful every time so I guess I must be a bit of a jinx to them. They will be hoping I stay away for the rest of the season. From their results, Charlton are obviously a lot better than I've seen but I do think that, out of the three up there, they are the ones that will miss out on going straight up."

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